Municipal Culture Institution “Ekaterinburg Puppet Theater”

The official date of foundation of the theater is considered to on November the 6th, 1936, when an independent existence of the theater was approved by the proclamation of the city executive committee. Before this date the group of enthusiasts – puppeteers staged puppet performance “Stepka-Rastrepka” on the basis of TYS. Success of this work, which little spectators loved very much, determined the destiny of puppeteers – there would be a puppet theater in the city!
The first performance of the puppet theater was “Letter from Italy”, directed by Rimma Andreevich Smelski. Later this name was removed from playbills and archives, because during repressions R. A. Smelski was announced as nation enemy and shooted.
Independent creative way of the theater wasn’t simple. Several times it was on the verge of insanity, the troupe was dismissed several times. Nearly 30 years the theater was travelling across the roads, just like Petrushka was in old times, it didn’t have his own corner and house. An old lorry later changed to a gassed invalid bus. It was a nomadic life. Departures at the city and neighborhood. Puppeteers were even on military roads.
In 50s Puppet theater used to live in small accommodation on Lenin street,15. Workshops, rehearsals and accounts department occupied only four corner windows. A hall was also there. At the second floor were dwelling flats. With the growth of repertory the place at the theater wasn’t chronically enough. Near exit, in small room, were most precious things – scenery and puppets, packed into boxes and kept with care.
The 50s were years of formation of the theater. Troupe increased with youth. At that time there were no institutes, which prepared actors–puppeteers. For getting professional education the studio was organized on the basis of the theater. The first studitions were G. Shatkovskaya, A. Gerasimov, I. Gracheva. The theater staged plays, which have become the part of the golden puppet fund: “Ivan –
peasant's son”, by B. Sudashkin, “Sister Alenushka and brother Ivanushka” by B. Larusevich and I. Karnaukhova, “Year who thinks mord of itself” by S. Mikhalkov, “Tower (Teremok)” by S. Marshak, “Gosling” by N. Gernet, plays based on P. Bazhov’s tales as “Sinushka’s well”, “Silver hoof”, “Blue snake”.
In 1958 director S. Rivikin and painter N. Sitnikov staged the first adult performance – “Devil’s own mill” by Ya. Drda and I. Shtok.
In 1963 students of the studio were included in evening course of Sverdlovsk theatric college. The supervisor of students was Uri Alexandrovich Nabokov.
In 1964, after 32 years of wandering, the theater finally got its own home on Mamina–Sibiryaka street. New theater was opened with staging of A. Brandt “Katka’s day”.
In 1967 U. A. Nabokov graduated the brilliant course of actors–puppeteers from Sverdlovsk Theatric College. There were E. Eremeev, L. Potapova, V. Tarasov, V. Tkach, O. Gerasimova and others, who became the basis of the troupe.
In1969 on the stage of the theater Roman Vinderman, who graduated from the Leningrad State Institute of theater, music and cinema, staged his diploma performance “Snow Queen”, where at the first time not dolls were playing, but actors in masks. Roman Vinderman and Sverdlovsk Puppet Theater were the first in the process of composing new theatric esthetics. Actor went out of screen, which had safely hidden him for centuries. He went out with a puppet in his hands, sometimes like a drama actor, “alive”, he became mime and acrobat, and thinker. Such unusual puppets, which weren’t imaginable earlier, appeared. There were staged “Shveik” by Ya. Gashek, “Young Oaf” by D. Fonvizin, “Bathshouse” by V. Mayakovski and “Sirano de Berzherak” by E. Rostan. Adult drama came into the children theater. From 1969 to 1982 Roman Vinderman staged 36 performances. The period of Vinderman’s work in the theater is called the “golden century” of it. For shure it is possible to say, that the theater had very strong troupe. Actors T. Golubkova, V. Tarasov, E. Eremeev, T. Akhlustina, L. Potapova, L. Tarasova, A. Sukhorosova, T. Tkach, L. Pismenskaya, S. Medvedeva, A. Yefimov, I. Kuzmina were successfully played there. They became like-minded persons of Roman Vinderman, bearers of creative ideas of new format of puppet theater.
At the same time such experiments took place in Magnitogorsk (V. Shrayman), in Chelyabinsk (V. Volkhovski). Puppet theaters coped with drama of Anuy and Brekht, Durrenmatt and Gogol. Since that period none thinks puppet theater to be children’s. Ural theaters exchanged their experience and shared new experimental works with colleagues at the Puppet Theater Festival “Big Ural”, which started it’s history at 1975. Successors of “Big Ural”, which had a great authority and popularity, have become “Petrushka the Great” in Ekaterinburg and “Straw Lark” in Chelyabinsk.
At the second half of 80s “puppets” had finished conquest of new artistic space. There was a time to develop and to interpret achievements, to find its place in restructuring epoch. Vladimir Garanin became the chief director. As the artist with deep and complicated inner life, he liked unbanal, poetic decisions. With the help of his creative activity, intellect and great diligence he staged rich of emotions and minds, philosophic performances: “Across green hills of ocean”, “Aladdin’s magic lamp”, “Suitcase of rubbish”, “Belogrudka”, “Light exultant” and the last work “Blue bird”, where the idea of artistic search was embodied.
In March 1997 the theater took part in theatric festival “Golden Mask” in Moscow, where judges and spectators saw “Pictures at the exhibition”, theatric fantasy on themes of the same name piano plays’ cycle by M. Mussorgski, edited by composer S. Sidelnikov.
Authors oe the performance A. Borok and S. Plotov in cooperation with A. Yefimov have made a wonderful universe with many parallel words, where soul, love and good have been valuable. The performance got high ratings of colleagues and critics, and designer A. Yefimov became a winner of the national theatric prize “Golden Mask” as the best puppet theater designer.
In 1996 – 1998 there was a solid reconstruction of the building, after which the theater opened season in new building. Conditions of viewing and places for work have become better; the stage has become appropriate for Puppet Theater. Specialists from Horvatia, Austria and Switzerland took part in reconstruction. In construction of foyer interior children took part, many of their ideas were implemented.
Reconstruction of the building let the actors to play at two stages at the same time – the big one for 268 seats and the small one – for 80. New light and sound equipment let a puppet performance to reach the highest level. The stage of a big hall has hydraulic system for installation of complex, multistory scenery. Construction, propser, painter and sewing workshops got new comfortable premises.
New traditions have been appearing in new building. At the end of a season a new unusual prize is awarded. It got its name in honor of immortal Russian skomorokh. “Petrushka the Great” is a symbol of puppet theater forefather. The most precious award for a puppeteer is recognition of colleagues and spectators. It is awarded to one, who is devoted to the theater, one, who has made memorable performances and images, one, who has become favorite of the public and one, who gives the part of his heart to the theater. The author of the statue is a winner of “Golden Mask” A. Yefimov, and the sculptor Boris Rizhkov made it. A little bit later this statues are awarded to the winners of International Puppet Theater Festival “Petrushka the Great”, which started the 70th anniversary season. The theater received its friends from different cities of Russia, the near and distant abroad. The Festival has become traditional, is held once a two years, increasing its geographical boarders and rising its organizational and artistic level.
The fashion parade “Splendid madness at St. Valentine’s Day”, firstly held in 2002, has become bright and memorable event of the latest years. The project has become traditional and is annually held at the stage of the theater, presenting theatric costumes, made by theatric painters – Yulia Selavri, Andrei Melentiev, Anatoli Shubin and others.
In August 2004 a museum of puppets “Petrushka’s house” opened its doors. Exposition of the museum isn’t constant, it us regularly renewed. Among the first exhibit there were puppets, costumes and scenery of performances “Light exultant”, “Twelve Months”, “Stable Tin Soldier”, “Aladdin” and others. The museum gives grown up spectators an opportunity to remind their favorite heroes and even to touch them. And little children during a fascinating excursion feel themselves as real puppeteers: a professional actress teaches them how to make a living creature from a puppet. There is an archives in the museum. This is the history of the theater in pictures, documents and publications. The history, which continues. Even after 75 years the theater, which has its own unique face, continues its creative road, relying on its traditions.
Adult performances, which have a successful festival history and high ratings of critics, are staged: “Bobok” by the anniversary of F. M. Dostoevski, “Bashmachkin” by the 200th birthday of N. V. Gogol. There are children performances based on classical (“Snow Queen”, “Emerald city of country OZ”, “By pike’s behest”) and contemporary (“About clever dog Sonya” by A. Usachev, “Funny fairy-tale about sweet life” by I. and L. Tukhtyaevs) children literature. In cooperation with the theater are attracted directors Alexei Smirnov (Saint-Petersburg), Alexandr Borok (Chelyabinsk), Grigori Lifanov (Moscow), Nikolai Kolyada (Ekaterinburg), painters Yekaterina Petukhova, Anastasiya Kardash (Saint-Petersburg), which supports a reputation of the theater as simply experimenting.
The theater is usual participant and winner of Russian and international theatric festivals and projects. At the exhibition “Window at Russian puppet theaters” in the festival “Titiridja–2008” in Tolosa, Spain, Ekaterinburg puppeteers was honored to present puppet art in modern Russia. In 3 halls of the exhibition there were sketches, costumes, puppets and parts of decoration by Yu. Selavri, A. Yefimov and A. Shubin. The project had a wide response and the highest ratings among Russian and Spanish press.
One of the most significant events in the up-to-date theater history was carrying out the Summit of executive committee of UNIMA in September 2009. This event is unique not only for Ekaterinburg puppeteers and the capital of Urals, but for the whole theatric Russia. Before this time delegates of the international organization gathered in Russia only once – in 1976, in Moscow Central Children Puppet Theater. Summit lasted for three days, during it UNIMA members held several meetings, got acquainted with the best examples of Ural Puppet Theater art. Our guests had the brightest impressions of Ekaterinburg, and performances of the theater aroused real delight. The general secretary of UNIMA Jacques Trudo (Canada) noticed: “I’m impressed by the theater, equipment, the troupe of Ekaterinburg Puppet Theater. The best ideas I will bring to my country”. And in the nearest future our performances will be seen be spectators from Switzerland, Canada, China and India.
The big event for the theater and the whole Ekaterinburg theatric life was a new production “ Gribul-simpleton and mister Bumblebee” based on George Sand’s fairy-tale. It is a common project with French theater “Du Fust”. Author of the plot, director and designer of the performance is an artistic leader of “Theater Du Fust” Emily Valanten. The translator of the dramatization was Natalya Sannikova. In the performance, besides puppets, made in workshops of our theater by the sketches of Valanten, “living plane” is used, that gives artists of our puppet theater an opportunity to show themselves not only as wonderful puppeteers, but as drama actors. This event opened an official culture program “Year of France–Russia 2010” in Ural region. The production of the performance “Gribul-simpleton and mister Bumblebee” is carried out with the support of Culture ministry of Russia, Union of theatric workers of Russia, Culture department of Ekaterinburg Administration and “Alliance Frances Ekaterinburg”.

Gained authority in Russia and abroad, the theater is considered to be one of the best theaters in Russia. A famous theatric critic said about it: “There the puppet heart of Russia is beating”